How exactly do you get into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame?
Practice, practice, practice? An excellent start.
Sell mountains of albums and be annoyingly regular on the radio? That next, yes.
Have lots of friends and make nice with all the right folks? There you go.
But this is rock ‘n’ roll. Something that began and made its best strides as a progressive, rebellious and flat-out not trustworthy enough to leave with your woman and last beers medium.
Is Bono really more rock than, say, Ric Ocasek? (I’m unsure of how to measure that, yet willing to let them fight it out physically.)
On April 14th two of my absolute favorite acts will be inducted into this HOF – the Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers – along with a dude I listened to a lot in college – Donovan – and a band with a giant rep and a few good jams – Guns ‘n Roses.
Let’s take a peek at how the R’n’R HOF does things for a second…
Halls tend to have an extremely tight focus and excruciating standards. That’s not terrible – they’re halls of FAME. But it gets weird when you take a look at who is voting.
For the baseball HOF, you have the old school voting in the new school (or the middle school if you consider.. never mind. You see? Damn metaphors. Always a problem). Completely different eras of a sport that is always changing.
With the R’n’R HOF, the group of voters is surprisingly small: there are three people (non-musicians) in charge of the whole thing – including Rolling Stone publisher and three-star-rating fire salesman Jann Wenner – plus a gaggle of other voting writers who filter their votes through whatever system he employs.
I have a subscription to Rolling Stone. The articles are often phenomenal and their pop culture coverage pretty comprehensive, but when it comes to actually critiquing the music they tend to play it pretty safe.
No biggie. Ads gotta sell. But since the mag – HOF included – is so wrapped-up in the business side of the industry, they both tend to lean (or vote) in favor of big names that will have a few Greatest Hits albums to sell. Nobody can say that the Chili Peppers aren’t deserving. But the hall has been accused of changing the rules to let bands on the cusp slip in... or out (i.e. the Dave Clark Five incident (that only sounds like the title of a great book. It wouldn't be)).
There’s your problem. Obviously: doing anything at least half in the name of selling stuff always tends to leave out a lot of things.
And just as the baseball HOF left out Ron Santo for years because his team wasn’t located on the east coast (“The center of the universe, guys, C’MON!” as per ESPN), the R’n’R HOF tends to forget the entire genre of prog-rock because 14-minute songs don’t often hold everybody’s attention. (This theory is secretly coded into the lyrics of Iron Butterfly's giant hit: “In-a-gadda-da-vida baby/ Don’t you know that we’ll prolly be screwed/ Are you listening to me?/ We’re getting the shaft, man!”).
“Whatevs!” You say? “Only my favorite weird uncle likes prog-rock. And he’s too broke to visit Ohio.”
Well, I should point out that this leaves behind hugely influential artists like Peter Gabriel (who started bands that ARE in the HOF, patted them on the behind and sent them on their way). Also out are bands of varying degrees of importance like Jethro Tull, Yes, Rush and The Moody Blues.
Declined as well are awesome musicians who don’t tend to specifically engage in “rock ‘n’ roll,” but absolutely have influenced the genre, like John Coltrane and Chicago.
And then there are a few bands that defy explanation – like The Cars and super songwriter/producer/Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne.
There are even some bands I don’t particularly like, but might have a great case if somebody made one: Kiss, The Cure, Journey, Bon Jovi, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper and Depeche Mode.
From all available evidence – the R’n’R HOF seems to work off a really basic template.
And templates – how rock ‘n’ roll are they!
[ * Here are the inductees for 2012 … http://rockhall.com/inductees ]
[ * Here’s CRACKED’s take on people cheated … http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-people-cheated-out-rock-roll-hall-fame/ ]